Place name archaeology
suggestion: View a few of the neighborhood profiles from North Side
Pittsburgh History Series program (see North
Side Program Log) and ask students to make a note of some of the place
names mentioned (neighborhoods, street names, building names, etc.)
- How did
some of the places in the North Side get their names?
of the area, make a list of some of the place names in your neighborhood
or region: Street names, bridges, towns, streams, hills, and other land
how each of these places may have gotten their names:
- Who might
have named these places? Why? When?
names of these places, then discuss:
places were named after people? [Pittsburgh, Frick Park, Schenley
Park, Stanwix St., Carnegie, Grant St.] Who were these people? Why
were these places named after them? Who gave the places these names?
Was it a tribute or just because they got there first? What is the
story behind their settling the area? Why did they settle here?
places are named after natural features? [Ridge Ave., Water St.,
Spring Hill, Panther Hollow, the Strip, Oakland, Squirrel Hill] Which
of those names now refer to things that aren't there any more? Why
have they disappeared?
names represent ideas or ideals [Homestead, Homewood, Spring Garden,
names offer clues of past activities? [Observatory Hill, Millvale,
Ambridge] Are those activities still practiced at these places? If not,
what happens at these locations now?
modern place names with those on historic maps (historic maps of Pittsburgh
can be downloaded from the Western
Pennsylvania History Discussion page). What places have changed names?
Why might they have changed?
Look up the geographical names at the USGS' Geographic
Names Information System (http://mapping.usgs.gov/www/gnis/) for access to maps, aerial photos, census maps, and information from the
EPA's Surf your Watershed site!
Plan a new regional
mass transportation system
View segments on the riverboat crews, trolleys, inclines,
trains, old highways, and airports as preparation for this discussion.
See Rivers and Valleys Related Video.
What are some
of Pittsburgh's unique challenges for mass transportation? [Lack of a
clear grid system; hills and rivers that funnel into tunnels and bridges...]
What transit challenges does it share with all cities? [Unwillingness
to carpool or ride mass-transit, pollution, fossil fuel use...]
What are some
of Pittsburgh's unique opportunities for mass transportation? [Waterways
that lead to Downtown; miles of unused railroad track and right-of-way...]
the region could use its waterways and other assets to supplement the
existing mass transit system and encourage more ridership (Remember the
Narrow the list
to three or four possibilities and discuss how feasible each idea is by
listing its pros and cons.
Visit the Port
Authority's web site for the latest information about the region's
The United State
Geological Survey keeps data from all its river gauges since they've gone
into effect -- most in the 1930s. Using the historical streamflow data
for river gauges in Pittsburgh, it is possible to see a portrait of some
of the city's major river events!
streamflow graphs from the USGS
Over the years
when do the highest and lowest water levels usually occur during the year?
Over a decade, how often does the streamflow go extremely high?
How can you
tell when the floods occur? How long does it take the flood to develop?
How long does it last? How long does it take the flood to subside and
flow return to normal?
Why does the
USGS measure streamflow rather than river levels? What is the relationship
between flow and levels? You can find information about historic water
levels at the Pittsburgh
PA Hydrologic Services Area.
- What does
a flood look like? How does it develop over time?
- What does
a drought look like? How does it develop over time?
- What is
the average waterflow/month for one decade? Highest month? Lowest month?
- What difference
did the flood control projects make between the 1936 and 1972 floods?
Follow up by
having students do their own searches and plot graphs of riverflow in
the activity Ebb and flow: Find historical river
data for your area at the USGS.